Ranked! The 15 Most Fabulous British Dramas
We don’t give those who call cookies “biscuits” and watch channels like BBC One, Sky, ITV enough credit. The popularity of British television greatly influences American entertainment; whether it’s The Office, Shameless, or Life on Mars, shows which are remade for a “Yankee” audience (even Three’s Company was inspired by UK “tele”) or British originals that make their way to streaming, America always seems to have its hand in Britain’s biscuit jar. We’ve appropriated shows like Peaky Blinders, The Crown, and Sherlock because they both rival and are superior to entertainment produced or filmed in the states. Let’s face it, what was “Dench” good in the UK yesterday, is fabulous in the U.S. today. Fabulous can mean something extraordinary, wonderful, or mythical, and we’re using all three definitions to list The 15 Most Fabulous British Dramas.
Cover Photo: Netflix
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Idris Elba's titular (and slightly unhinged) detective hunts down murderers while grappling with the intermingling of his job and personal life which, at times, makes him appear similar to the criminals he chases. Dark, thrilling, and superbly acted, Luther as fabulous a crime-drama there is—with a lot of people calling "999."
This thought-provoking whodunnit is set in the fictional town of Broadchurch, just off the English Channel, where everybody knows everybody. The first (and best) season follows local detectives, Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman) as they investigate the murder of an 11-year-old boy. Broadchurch proved so popular that Fox attempted to remake it. Gracepoint was canceled after one season.
13. 'Black Mirror'
The Twilight Zone for the new generation. Charlie Booker and Annabel Jones’s Back Mirror, an anthology series exploring humanity's toxic relationship with technology, is an ominous (albeit cynical and horrifying) look at the politics and society in the near future. The show’s quality varies, but when it hits a home run, no one is finding that baseball.
12. 'The End of the F***ing World'
Based on Charles Forsman’s graphic novel, The End of the F***ing World follows an aspiring psychopath, James, as he plots the murder of his classmate, Alyssa—which would take his dark side to the next level. When the latter suggests they run away together, and a subsequent bond develops (whilst James continues to plot) James discovers he may not be as murderous as intended.
11. 'His Dark Materials'
BBC One/HBO’s His Dark Materials makes up for that god-awful The Golden Compass movie with a faithful adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s beloved trilogy. The series follows alethiometer-reading Lyra and her quest to save her friend, navigate other worlds (including ours), discover the meaning of “dust,” and thwart a totalitarian version of the Catholic Church, The Magisterium.
Fleabag is based on the one-woman show Phoebe Waller-Bridge first performed in 2013. In BBC Three/Amazon’s adaptation, Waller-Bridge plays the titular “Fleabag,” a free-spirited and sexually active woman with a dark past and some serious issues. Her character often breaks the fourth wall to both make jokes and connect with the audience (until she doesn’t). Waller-Bridge’s brilliant acting/writing won her a string of awards, making her one of the most sought-after talents in Hollywood.
9. 'Killing Eve'
Speaking of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, she was the head writer for Killing Eve’s first season (it has a new female writer each season but, quite frankly, it’s gone downhill since Waller-Bridge left). The show is an adaptation of Luke Jennings’ Villanelle series, following British intelligence investigator Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) and a mutual obsession with psychopathic assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer).
Richard Madden proved he was more than the “King in the North” in Jed Mecurio’s Bodyguard. His complex performance makes you unsure of his motives and mental state the entire ride—one that is thrilling, emotional, political, pulpy, and above all, fun.
7. 'Pride and Prejudice (1995)'
This BBC miniseries and adaptation of Jane Austen’s 19th-century novel is arguably superior to its Keira Knightley (2005) counterpart. Why? Colin Firth as an angsty, angry, and confused Mr. Darcy. Duh.
6. 'The Last Kingdom'
The Last Kingdom follows Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon), a Saxon-born who’s raised by Vikings. After his adoptive family is betrayed and murdered, he finds himself stuck between two people—the English and the Danes. The show’s story, and cast, revolves around history, pitting Uhtred as a fictional figure that influences everything (but is ignored in the pages of history). The beauty of The Last Kingdom is seen in Uhtred’s duality (helping King Alfred, killing, and sympathizing with Danes) as well as its gritty action sequences.
5. 'Downtown Abbey'
This historical drama follows the Crawley family and their domestic servants, analyzing social hierarchy and events from the sinking of the Titanic to the Beer Hall Putsch. After airing on ITV and moving to PBS, Downtown Abbey became everyone’s go-to post-Edwardian era soap.
4. 'The Crown'
One of Netflix’s best dramas is of course a British one. The show follows the reign of Queen Elizabeth II onward (featuring a revolving door of the best performers in the game), giving fans an addictive look behind the curtain of British royalty. Yes, The Crown is produced in America but it adapts/extrapolates British history soooo...
3. 'Peaky Blinders'
The Peaky Blinders were a real-life Birmingham street gang that used to stitch razor blades into the peaks of their flat caps. While the gang was overtaken by a larger gang in the early 20th century, in Steven Knight’s rock n’ roll answer to Boardwalk Empire, they were not. The show's protagonist, Thomas Shelby, is the kind of cool, leading his gang to an unprecedented amount of power (at one point he even becomes a member of Parliament).
Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' modern adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories see Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman play the best Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, respectively. Their performances are made even better by intelligent and unpredictable writing. Fingers crossed for another season/series...eventually.
1. 'Doctor Who'
TV's longest-running sci-fi show of all time—43 years, 723 episodes, and 13 “official” doctors. Need we say more?
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